The Importance of Listening

Every family deals with conflict—between husbands and wives, or parents and children. Dysfunctional families tend to suffer from increased conflict because they don’t deal with problems as they arise, or they deal with them ineffectively.

Unresolved problems can fester into major family issues, and I’ve counseled many couples who divorced because they were unable to recover from these buried tensions and suppressed anger.

Don’t make that mistake. Deal with conflicts when they develop! One of the best ways to handle conflict between family members is by learning to listen.

James 1:19 provides excellent advice: “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”

Listening to Your Children: As parents, we need to listen to our kids. The things they are saying may be wrong or immature, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be heard. When our children speak, they are telling us about ourselves.

It may be hard to admit, but we can sometimes be wrong in how we deal with our kids. We need to acknowledge this before it causes an offense. All children—like all humans—have a sin nature, but some are more rebellious than others because of an offense against their parents that mom and dad were unwilling to deal with.

I know a couple who are absolutely unwilling to admit they ever made a mistake with their children. Should anyone suggest otherwise, they become hostile and declare the child is the problem—never them!

That’s a mistake. If we are so threatened by a challenge to our parenting that we refuse to listen to someone’s grievances about us, there is something terribly wrong about us.

Are you willing to listen to your children when they say you’re being unfair? Can you admit that criticism might be true? When I listen to the complaint and weigh it carefully, I become a better man, a better parent, and a better human being. It makes me more sensitive to the hearts of others.

Listening to Your Spouse: The same applies to listening to your spouse. Nagging and constant criticism can be hurtful to a marriage, but every husband and wife ought to have the freedom to voice a complaint when a conflict arises or when they have been hurt by a spouse’s attitude or actions.

When this occurs, the other spouse must listen rather than go on the defensive.

Furthermore, every man needs to ask his wife what she sees wrong in him and what she’d like to see him change about himself. Most women I’ve met are fair, very relational, and highly intuitive. What they have to say is valuable to husbands, and it needs to be heard.

Wives also need to listen to their husbands. As a husband expresses his needs, hurts, fears and frustrations, a listening wife can register what is being said and meet it with a sensitive, timely response.

When we are willing to listen to the voices and hearts of our family members, we can deal with the issues that would otherwise tear us apart. Not to listen is to build resentment, but careful, honest listening brings healing.

May we all be “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”

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